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Reprinted from The Ottawa Naturalist, VoL XXIII., July 
August numbers, without, change in paging. 


By T. W. E. Sowter, Ottawa. 

To the student of Indian archaeology, the great highway of 
the Ottawa will always be a subject of absorbing interest. As 
yet, it is almost a virgin field of inquiry, as far as any systematic 
effort has been made to exploit it. As yet, there are vast stores 
of information, along this old waterway, which await the magic 

» touch of scientific investigation, to be turned into romance 
chapters of Canadian history. Sooner, or later, we must appre- 
ciate these potential opportunities for the collection of data 
that may solve many important ethnic problems, which have 
been transmitted to us from the dim twilight of prehistoric times 
and are, as yet, only presented to us in„the will-o'-the-wispish 
light of tradition. The Ottawa River may yet furnish us with 
clues to the elucidation of much that is problematical in regard 
to areas of occupation, migrations and dispersions of some of 
our great native races, who were leading actors in many of the 
tragic wilderness dramas, that were played out in Canada before 
and after European contact. 

The early Jesuit missionaries have left us, in their Relations 
a priceless record of Algonkin and Huron sociology, as well as 
an invaluable basis for the study of such of the Indian tribes of 
Canada as came within the sphere of their activities, As those 
gentle and lovable pioneers of the Cross were among the first 
Europeans to come in contact with these red children of the 
forest, they enjoyed exceptional opportunities for observing 
their habits of thought and action, ere their primitive folk-lore 
and traditions had been modified by the cradle stories of the 

We are told by Parkman, one of the most trustworthy 
historians of modern times, that "By far the most close and 
accurate observers of Indian superstition were the French and 
Italian Jesuits of the first half of the seventeenth century. Their 

62 The Ottawa Naturalist. [July 

opportunities were unrivalled; and they used them in a spirit of 
faithful inquiry, accumulating facts, and leaving theory to their 
successors." It is for this reason that the Jesuit Relations 
should be regarded as the groundwork of Indian archaeology, 
as far as Canada is concerned. They were written by men of 
absolute integrity, who have given us as much of the life history 
of the individual, the clan and the tribe, as came under their 
observation ; or as they were able to obtain from the most trust- 
worthy sources. They describe the Indian, as they found him, 
embowered in the seclusion of his native forests; surrounded 
by innumerable okies or manitous, both benevolent and malig- 
nant, to whom he appealed for aid in the hour of his need, or 
propitiated with sacrifices; venerating, with a sentiment akin 
to worship, such animal ancestors as happened to be the proto- 
types of his various clans; adhering to mythologies that agreed 
fairly well in essentials though somewhat loosely defined in 
matters of detail; believing, in his Nature- worship, in the soul 
or spirit of the lake, the river and the cataract ; but without any 
vestige of belief in that personification of benificence called "The 
Great Spirit" who was presented to him afterwards by the mis- 
sionaries, as the archetype of mankind, and recommended to 
him as the Supreme Being whom he should worship. 

That the Jesuit record has been dictated by a spirit of 
truthfulness, is apparent from its impartial treatment of Indian 
tradition and worship ; for, while some writers have endeavored 
to interpret Indian mythology in such a manner as to make it 
conform to the bias of preconceived theories, these worthy 
apostles of the Cross have given us the simple truth without 
embellishments. Examples of this kind may be found in 
Ragueneau's Relation, of 1648, in which he refers to the Hurons 
as having received from their ancestors no knowledge of God; 
and in the denial of Allouez, in his Relation of 1667, that any 
such knowledge existed among the tribes of Lake Superior. It 
is not probable that these men would have failed to recognize 
any such belief had the case been otherwise. Thus, these subtle 
reasoners, and past-masters in theological disquisition, were 
unable to discover, in such manitous as Manabozho, or the Great 
White Hare of the Algonkins, or, in Rawen Niyoh, the great oki 
of the Huron-Iroquois, beings analogous to the white man's God. 

Now, the writer is convinced that this field of archaeological 
inquiry should be entered, with the assistance of the "open se- 
same" of the historical record; and that, by following up the 
clues, transmitted to us by the Jesuits and other contemporary 
writers, we should devote our attention to such portions of this 
field as are most likely to* yield the best results, under careful 
and methodical cultivation. 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 63 

The great stream, which forms the main boundary between 
the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, was called in early times 
the River of the Ottawas; but, it might have been named, also., 
the River of the Hurons. Owing to its geographical position, it 
offered the advantages of a direct and convenient highway be- 
tween the French settlements on the St. Lawrence and the Indian 
tribes of the Great Lakes. This river, especially in the seventeenth 
century, was traversed by Algonkins and Hurons, Frenchmen 
and priests, following, either along its shores or at its distant 
terminals, their varied pursuits of explorers, fur-traders, scalp- 
hunters or ministers of the gospel. Sometimes, huge fleets of 
canoes, bearing red embassies from the west, or white punitive 
expeditions from the east, consignments of furs to the St. Law- 
rence trading posts, or native supplies for the winter hunt, black 
robed Jesuits with donnes or artisans for their western missions, 
passed up or down this great highway; while, at other times, 
fugitive parties, both white and red, crept along the shadow of 
its shores to avoid some scalping-party of the ubiquitous and 
dreaded Iroquois. 

We are thus indebted to historical testimony for much of our 
knowledge of what took place on the Ottawa, since the beginning 
of the French regime. We should now endeavor to amplify this 
knowledge, by the accumulation of such data as may be derived 
from the domain of archaeology. The prospects in this direction, 
though somewhat dubious at first sight, are much improved 
upon closer acquaintance. 

It is no great tax upon our ingenuity to discover traces of 
the presence of French and Indians on the Ottawa, in bygone 
times. The Indian dictum that, "water leaves no trail," applies, 
only to the deeper parts of the stream; for the writer, has in his 
collection, stone tomahawks of native manufacture, together 
with trade bullets, which were taken from the shallow shore- 
water of this river. It is, however, in the ancient camping 
grounds, which dot the shores of the Ottawa at frequent intervals, 
that we should search for traces of early human occupation. As 
the recovery of the 'loose leaves, which have been lost out of 
some old story book, is necessary to complete the tale; so is the 
interpretation of the sign language of these camp-sites, a requisite 
for the recovery of many lost or unwritten pages of our historical 

Great care should be taken in the examination of these 
places. The ground should be all gone over on the hands and 
knees, as, with his nose to the ground, so to speak, one is not 
liable to overlook anything of importance. As he is about to 
turn up a chapter on the social and domestic life of a native 
community, he should observe the topographical features of the 

64 The Ottawa Naturalist. [July 

site and the position it occupies relative to the main river, 
whether situated on its margin or at any considerable distance 
away from its shores; and also, its proximity to smaller streams 
that might have been navigated by canoes before the deforest- 
ation of the district. He should first of all e famine the surface 
before disturbing it; after which he may search out the secrets 
concealed in the ashes of dead camp fires, by passing the ashes 
through a sieve, so as to retain such works of art as might, other- 
wise, pass unnoticed. Every work of art, or portion thereof, 
should be studied with great care, even to apparently insignifi- 
cant fragments. The composition of pottery should be noted and 
efforts made to discover if its ingredients are obtainable in the 
vicinity. All forms of arrow-heads should be noted, as well 
as the color and character of the flint, or other material, from 
which they have been fabricated, and, if possible, the source 
from which this material has been derived should be ascertained. 
Arrow-heads, that appear to be of foreign make, as differing from 
the prevailing forms, should be noted for future reference and 
comparison. Search should also be made amidst the usual 
litter of the flint workshops, in the locality, for evidences of 
domestic manufacture, such as pieces of raw material, flakings 
or heads that have been spoilt in the making and discarded by 
the ancient workmen. This flint refuse is found in greatest 
abundance about the bases of large boulders, which appear to 
have been utilized by the prehistoric artificers, as convenient 
work-benches in their primitive industries. Articles of European 
workmanship, which are too apt to be considered as of little 
consequence, should be searched for with the greatest diligence, 
making due allowance of course, for the difference in relative 
values between such finds as the rude pistol flint of the ancient 
hunter, and the metal cap or stopper from the pocket pistol of 
the well equipped modern fisherman. A sharp lookout should 
also be kept for implements of slate, especially such as are 
fabricated from the Huroriian variety; and, as a last but most 
important recommendation, the location of the camp site should 
be kept a secret from relic hunters, until its examination has 
been completed. 

C. C. James, in his Downfall of the Huron Nation, says that 
"The history and downfall of the Hurons may be studied in 
three sources. 1st. The traditions of the Indians themselves. 
2nd. The letters of the Jesuit Fathers, the written records 
commonly called The Jesuit Relations. 3rd. Modern archaeo- 
logical research and ethnological investigation. These three 
contributers to a common story are widely different in method, 
and when they verify one another we are bound to accept the 
conclusions as facts of history." It may be said also that the 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 65 

same sources of information are available in studying the question 
of Algonkin and Huron occupation of the Ottawa Valley. We 
have already considered the value of the Jesuit writings, let us 
now examine some of the traditions of the Indians themselves. 

Life on the old Ottawa, during the greater part of the seven- 
teenth century, was always strenuous and frequently dangerous. 
On this rugged old trade route, during the French regime, the 
fur-traders from the interior, both white and red, experienced 
many vicissitudes while conveying the products of the chase to 
the trading posts on the St. Lawrence-. Shadowy traditions of 
those days of racial attrition, have been transmitted from father 
to son, from the old coureurs de bois and their Indian confreres, 
to their half-breed descendants of the present day. These 
traditions account for the human bones washed out some years 
ago at the foot of the old Indian portage at the Chats, and those 
that are scattered in great profusion at Big Sand Point, lower 
down the river ; also, for quite a number of brass kettles found at 
one time near the mouth of Constance Creek, for the Indian 
burials on Aylmer Island, as well as for the presence of arrow- 
heads, stone celts, flint knives and other native implements in 
the gravel beds at the foot of the Chaudiere, and, without pausing 
to consider whether these relics of a departed people are not the 
ordinary litter of Indian camp-sites, or the disinterred bones 
from Indian burial places, tradition, as usual, takes charge of 
them as the ominous tokens of a period of violence. 

At Big Sand Point there is a sand mound or hillock, fringed 
with scrubby trees, which has the uncanny reputation of having 
been once the home of a family of Wendigoes. These Wendigoes, 
as is usual with this species of manitou, were a source of constant 
annoyance to the native dwellers on the shores of Lake Deschenes 
but more particularly to an Algonkin camp on Sand Bay, quite 
close to the headquarters of these malignant spirits. The old 
man, who possessed the gigantic proportions of his class, was 
frequently seen wading about in the waters of the bay, when on 
foraging expeditions after Indian children of whose flesh, it is 
said, he and his family were particularly fond. The family 
consisted of the father, the mother and one son. The bravest 
Indian warriors had, on several occasions, ambushed and shot 
at the old man and woman without injuring either of them, but, 
by means of sorcery, they succeeded in kidnapping the boy, 
when his parents were away from home. Holding the young 
hopeful as a hostage, they managed to dictate terms to his father 
and mother and finally got rid of the whole family. 

The writer heard this story one night while camping at the 
Chats and, though far from believing than any sane Indian of 
the old school would have laid violent hands on even a young 

66 The Ottawa Naturalist. [July 

Wendigo, he is quite satisfied that, had one of those legendery 
monsters of the American wilderness loomed suddenly out of 
the dark shadows of the forest and approached the camp fire, 
the poor half-breed, who was "spinning the yarn" would have 
immediately taken to his canoe and left the Wendigo in undis- 
puted possession of the island. 

As it is around this same sand mound, the old Wendigo 
homestead at Big Sand Point, that the scattered bones, already 
alluded to, are found, it seems strange that the story tellers 
do not represent them as the remains of the cannibal feasts of its 
former occupants. These evidences of mortality, however, are 
accounted for in another tradition, that tells of a war-party of 
Iroquois who, having taken possession of and intrenched or 
barricaded the old Wendigo mound, defended themselves to the 
death against a force of French and Indians, who surprised them 
in a night-attack and butchered them to a man. 

This story seems to carry us back to that period of conflict 
which was inaugurated by the onslaught of the Iroquois upon the 
Huron towns, which was continued with unparalled ferocity 
and terminated only by the merciless destruction of a once 
powerful nation and the final dispersion of its fugitive remnants, 
together with such bands of Algonkins as happened to come 
within the scope of that campaign of extermination. It is 
supposed that our tradition has reference to one of the many 
scenes of bloodshed which reddened the frontiers of Canada, 
while the Confederates were thus making elbow-room for them- 
selves on this continent, and were putting the finishing touches 
on the tribes to the north of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. 
At this time all the carrying-places, on our great highway, were 
dangerous, for war-parties of the fierce invaders held the savage 
passes of the Ottawa, hovering like malignant okies amidst the 
spray of wild cataracts and foaming torrents, where they levied 
toll with the tomahawk and harvested with the scalping-knife 
the fatal souvenirs of conquest. 

Sand Bay, at the outlet of Constance Creek, in the township 
of Torbolton, Carleton Co., Ont., is a deep indentation of the 
southern shore line of the Ottawa, extending inland about a 
mile. The entrance, or river front of the bay, is terminated on 
the west by Big Sand Point, and on the east by Pointe a la 
Bataille, the two points being about a mile apart. The latter 
is now shown on the maps as Lapotties Point, a name of recent 
origin and doubtless conferred upon it by some ox-witted yokel, 
who thought it should bear the name of its latest occupant, 
rather than that which probably commemorated some tragic 
incident of a bygone age. The French Canadian river-men, 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 67 

however, with much better taste, still retain the name by which 
it was known to the old voyageurs. 

A great many years ago, so the story goes, a party of French 
fur-traders, together with a number of friendly Indians, possibly 
Algonkin and Huron allies, went into camp one evening at Pointe 
a la Bataille. Fires were lighted, kettles were slung and all 
preparations made to pass the night in peace and quietness. 
Soon, however, the lights from other camp fires began to glimmer 
through the foliage on the opposite shore of the bay, and a 
reconnaisance presently revealed a large war-party of Iroquois 
in a barricaded encampment on the Wendigo Mound at Big 
Sand Point. Well skilled as they were in all the artifices of 
forest warfare, the French and their Indian companions were 
satisfied that something would happen before morning. It was 
inevitable that the coming night would be crowded with such 
stirring incidents as would leave nothing to be desired, in the 
way of excitement. There lay the Iroquois camp, with its fierce 
denizens crouched like wolves in their lair, though buried in the 
heart of the enemy's country, yet self-reliant in the pride of 
warlike achievements, whose military strategy had rendered 
them invulnerable as the gloom of the oncoming thundercloud, 
and as inexorable as the fate of the forest monarch that is blasted 
by a stroke of its lightning. 

"Now, the golden rule on the Indian frontier in those strenuous 
times, was to deal with your neighbor as you might be pretty 
sure he would deal with you, if he got the chance. Of course 
it was customary, among the Indians to heap coals of fire on the 
head of an enemy, but as it was the usual practice, before putting 
on the coals, to bind the enemy to some immovable object, such 
as a tree or a stout picket, so that he was unable to shake them 
off, the custom was not productive of much brotherly love. 
Moreover, when the success of peace overtures could be assured 
only to the party that could bring the greater number of muskets 
into the negotiations, it. will be readily understood why the 
French, who were in the minority, did not enter into diplomatic 
relations with the enemy. On the contrary, it was resolved to 
fight, as soon as the opposing camp was in repose, and attempt a 
decisive blow from a quarter whence it would be least expected, 
thus forestalling an attack upon themselves, which might come 
at any time before the dawn. The French and their allies knew 
very well that if their plans miscarried and the attack failed, 
the penalty would be death to most of their party, and that, 
in the event of capture, they would receive as fiery and painful 
an introduction to the world of shadows as the leisure or limited 
means of their captors might warrant. 

Towards midnight, the attacking party left Pointe a la 

68 The Ottawa Naturalist. U u ly 

Bataille and proceeded stealthily southward, in their canoes, 
along the eastern rim of Sand Bay, crossed the outlet of Constance 
Creek and landing on the western shore of the bay advanced 
towards Big Sand Point through the pine forest that clothed, 
as it does to-day, the intervening sand hills. This long detour, 
of about two miles, was no doubt a necessity, as, on still nights, 
the most trifling sounds, especially such as might have been 
produced by paddles accidently touching the sides of canoes, 
are echoed to considerable distances in this locality. 

The advance of the expedition was the development of 
Indian 'Strategy, for, by getting behind the enemy, it enabled 
.the French and their allies to rush his barricades and strike him 
in the back, while his sentinels and outliers were guarding 
against any danger that might approach from the river front. 

The attack was entirely successful, for it descended upon 
and enveloped the sleeping camp like a hideous nightmare. 
Many of the Iroquois died in their sleep, while the rest of the 
party perished to a man, in the wild confusion of a midnight 

Such is the popular tradition of the great fight at the 
Wendigo Mound at Big Sand Point, and the bones that are 
found in the drifting sands at that place, are said to be the re- 
mains of friend and foe who fell in that isolated and unrecorded 

Let us now descend the river, as far as the Chaudiere, and 
we find ourselves once again in the moccasin prints of the Iroquois ; 
for those tireless scalp hunters were quite at home on the Ottawa, 
as well as on its northern tributaries. War expeditions of the 
Confederates frequently combined business with recreation. 
They would leave their homes on the Mohawk or adjacent lakes 
and strike the trail to Canada by way of the Rideau Valley, 
hunt along that route until the spring thaws set in, and manage 
to reach the Ottawa in time for the opening of navigation. Then 
they loitered about the passes of the Chaudiere and waited, like 
Wilkins Macawber, for something to turn up. 

While waiting thus for their prey to break cover, from up 
or down the river, they devoted their spare time to various 
occupations. To the oki, whose thunderous voice was heard in 
the roar of the falls, they made sacrifices of tobacco; while the 
Mohawks and Onondagas each gave a name to that cauldron 
of seething water which is known to us as The Big Kettle. The 
Mohawks called it Tsitkanajoh, or the Floating Kettle, while 
the Onondagas named it Katsidagweh niyoh or Chief Council 



This figure represents a clay vessel, which was found by Mr. James 
Lusk, on his farm, Lot 20, Range XL, Township of Eardley, Wright 
Co., Que. It was purchased from Mr. Lusk in the year 1903, and is 
now in the Archaeological Section of the Geological Museum at Ottawa, 
where it is indexed as No. 3 282 A. The vessel is 11 inches in height and 
33 inches in circumference. 

(The photograph, from which this reproduction was made, was 
kindly furnished by the Geological Survey Department.) 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 69 

Fire. It is possible that our Big Kettle may be a modified or 
corrupted translation of the Mohawk term. 

Iroquois tradition assigns to Squaw Bay, called also Cache 
Bay, at Tetreauville, the reputation of having been one of the 
favorite lurking places of these war-parties. It must have been 
in those days, an ideal spot for an ambush or concealed camp, *as 
it occupied, for the purposes of river piracy, as unique a position 
on the old trade route, as does one of our present day toll-gates, 
for controlling the traffic on a turnpike road. There is no doubt 
of the place having been used as an Indian camping ground, at 
least in prehistoric times, as the shores of the bay are littered 
in all directions with fragments and flakes of worked flint. This 
is an instance in which tradition is corroborated, to some extent, 
by archaeology. 

It is also said that Brigham's Creek, called also Brewery 
Creek, a narrow channel of the Ottawa, was the old Indian 
portage route for overcoming the rapids of the Chaudiere. It 
may be seen by glancing at a map of the city of Hull, that parties 
of Algonkins or Hurons, as the case may have been, upon emerg- 
ing on the main river at the head of this portage, were liable at 
any time to receive a warm welcome from some surprise-party of 
Iroquois visitors at the Squaw Bay camping ground. If descend- 
ing the rapids of the Little Chaudiere, they faced a far worse 
predicament, as, unable to escape or defend themselves in the 
swift current, they would have been caught, like passing flies 
that are blown into a spider's web. 

It is said that Indian cunning was at length successful in 
evolving a plan to outwit the military strategy of the Iroquois. 
As the old portage route had become dangerous it was resolved 
to have an alternative one. In ascending the Ottawa, this new 
portage started from the western shore of Brigham's Creek at a 
point now occupied by the International Cement Works. It 
continued thence in a westerly direction, skirting the foot of the 
mountain and passed down Breckenridge's Creek to the outlet of 
that stream into Lake Deschenes. It was rather a long portage 
of about a dozen miles, but the Algonkin and Huron had learned 
in the school of bitter experience, that, in their case, the longest 
way round was the shortest way home. An aged squaw, who 
lived in Aylmer many years ago, spoke of a similar forest trail 
that extended, in the early days, from a point on the Gatineau 
near the site of Chelsea, thence by way of Kingsmere to a point 

70 The Ottawa Naturalist. [August 

on Lake Deschenes, now occupied by the town of Aylmer. 

Reference has already been made to Indian camping 
grounds, which dot the shores of the Ottawa at frequent intervals. 
Let us see what can be made out of them, by a close examination 
of the relics they have yielded. The writer is convinced that 
these camp sites are of Algonkin origin, and that they bear 
evidences of casual contact, if not of more prolonged social 
intercourse with the Hurons. That is to say, that it looks as if 
the Hurons had been friendly visitors, who had spent much of 
their time in these Algonkin camps. These camp sites seem to 
have been selected with a view to observation, defence or escape 
in cases of sudden attack. The Hurons built their villages at 
some distance from the water highways, so as to escape obser- 
vation by inquisitive tourists, who might wish to attack them. 
They also selected their village sites where the land.- within a 
convenient distance, was suitable for agriculture. The high- 
ways of communication used by these village communities, were 
the innumerable forest trails, which traversed the Huron country 
in all directions. On the other hand, the Algonkins of the 
Ottawa have left traces of their camps along the edges of the 
river, on points of land which afford a good view up or down 
stream. They have been called canoe Indians and were at 
home on the water. As they were much more expert in the 
management of their birchen vessels than the Iroquoian races, 
they were in a position, on the shores of the river, to escape by 
water from a too powerful enemy approaching by land, or they 
could retire to the forest if an overwhelming fleet appeared in 
the offing. 

These camp sites are strewn with fragments of blackish flint, 
evidently procured from the Trenton limestone at the Chaudiere, 
where it is found in great abundance, especially along Brigham's 
Creek, the old Indian portage route. Arrow-heads, fabricated 
from these fragments, are also found on these Algonkin camp 
sites. But there is also found an arrow-head of a different 
pattern, that is made from flint that has a lighter color and a 
broader and " cleaner conchoidal fracture than the Algonkin 
forms. These arrow-heads bear a striking resemblance, in every 
respect, to those from the Huron country in western Ontario, and 
there are no flakings of this latter flint to show that they were 
fabricated in these Algonkin workshops. This seems to be 
negative evidence that they were not made on the Ottawa, but 
nay have been brought there by Huron visitors. It is not, of 
course, conclusive evidence of Huron occupation, but rather of 
Huron contract, more or less prolonged. A long knife of Huronian 

1909J The Ottawa Naturalist. 71 

slate, discovered on the Ottawa, by George Burland, with a 
broken gorget and a crescent shaped woman's knife, each of 
Huronian slate, found on the Bonnechere by Edward Moore, of 
Douglas, Ont., seem to be additional evidence of the presence of 
Hurons in the Ottawa Valley. 

There are two other camp sites, however, that differ essenti- 
ally from the foregoing and are without doubt distinctly Huron. 
The former of these was discovered by R. H. Haycock, of 
Ottawa, and the latter by Dr. H. M. Ami, of the Geological 

In the fall of 1859 and the spring of 1860, the late Edward 
Haycock built a residence in the city of Hull, on the point now 
occupied by Gilmour's Mill. While making excavations for the 
foundation of a summer house, the workmen laid bare several 
ash-beds, at a depth of from two to three feet below the surface. 
Among other things, these beds contained fragments of Indian 
pottery in great abundance. 1 Mr. R. H. Haycock examined 
them closely and reports them as having been of a dark brown 
color, decorated with incised lines, notches and indentations. 
According to Mr. Haycock's description, this pottery, both 
in composition and decoration* was similar to that unearthed 
from old ash-beds in the Huron country, in Ontario. 

One may observe, on approaching Hull by the Alexandra 
bridge, an extensive cut bank of sand and gravel, between the 
E. B. Eddy Co.'s sulphide mill and the end of the bridge, and 
between Laurier Ave., and the river. This is the place from 
which the late Edward Haycock procured sand for building 
purposes on the Eastern and Western Blocks of the Depart- 
mental buildings, at Ottawa. During the excavation of this 
bank, a great many Indian relics were discovered, such as 
womens : knives, arrow-heads, tomahawks and pottery, but no 
description of this pottery is obtainable. Here, according to 
white and red tradition, many bloody encounters took place 
between parties ascending or descending the river. 

In the archaeological department of the Geological Museum 
at Ottawa, there is a large array of pottery fragments collected 
by Dr. H. M. Ami, some years ago, from an old ash-bed at 
Casselman, Ont. In the same cases, are specimens of Huron 
pottery from village sites in western Ontario, and, in comparing 
the two collections one is quite satisfied that both are products 

1<( In some places rude pottery is found at a considerable depth, from 
different causes. In fire-places this may come from the practice of 
placing the fire in excavations in the ground" Earthenware of the New 
York Aborigines. William M. Beauchamp, Bulletin, New York State 

•urn, Vol. 5. No. 22, p. 80. 

72 The Ottawa Naturalist. [August 

of the same school of ceramic art. The ash-bed was large and 
deep and Dr. Ami is of the opinion that it had been used as a 
fire-place for a considerable length of time. There is no doubt 
that Dr. Ami's discovery is of the highest importance in establish- 
ing proofs of Huron occupation of the Ottawa valley. 

There are, also, in the Museum, two perfect specimens of 
Indian pottery from lot 20, range 11, Eardley township, Wright 
Co., Que. They were procured from James Lusk, who discovered 
fhem on his farm, where they had been washed out of the banks 
of a small creek during a freshet. They are suberb examples 
to aboriginal art, and it is difficult to understand how they 
could have been brought to such symmetrical proportions without 
the use of a lathe. Compared with similar vessels figured in the 
Ontario Archaeological Reports, it seems impossible to doubt 
that they are of Huron origin. These vessels are similar in 
pattern and have been fabricated from the same clayey com- 
position, with the same band, decorated with characteristic 
incised lines, about the top, and a wave-like edge on the summit 
of the rim, as are found in some of the Huron forms. As to 
whether the spot where this pottery was found is an ancient 
village site, will be an interesting subject for future investigation. 

Let us now consider another phase of the question of Huron 
occupation, that seems to be more conclusive e\ r en than the 
discovery of ash-beds or pottery, the evidences of ossuarial 
burial. The graves of a nation are indexes of its intellectual 
development, from the rude cairn of the wandering savage to 
the Taj Mahal of the imperial ruler. Could we have mingled in 
the activities of palaeocosmic man, and witnessed the rite of 
sepulture by which the Old Man of Cro-Magnon was laid to rest 
in his cave-sepulchre on the Vezere, in the Dordogne Valley, then, 
the last rites about the grave of that post-glacial patriarch might 
have yielded us a store of knowledge that would have been in- 
valuable to us in studying the savage culture of ancient Europe, 
such as the rude efforts of primitive man to interpret natural 
phenomena or to recognize in the variant manifestations of 
natural forces the evidences of divine anger or approbation. So, 
also, if we could have witnessed the burial rites of the Huron 
nation, in what was called the Feast of the Dead, they would 
have proved most instructive. They might have cleared up 
much that is obscure in regard to the ultimate destiny and re- 
lationship of the two souls, the one that took flight to the land of 
spirits, at the hour of death, and the other that awaited the 
final interment, before taking its departure. They might have 
given us an insight into the philosophy of Indian burials, which 
would have explained the presence or absence of warlike or 
domestic implements in Huron ossuaries. But, fortunately for 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 73 

archaeology, the Jesuits and other contemporary writers have 
told us much that is invaluable concerning this important 

Reverence for their dead was a marked characteristic of the 
Huron people, a sentiment that was common among all the red 
races. It is doubtful if those refinements of Christian feeling 
that find expression in the mortuary rites of our civilized white 
races, are one whit more profound than those outpourings of 
sorrow, which were lavished by the Hurons upon the remains 
of their departed relatives, at their periodical Feasts of the Dead. 

When the early settlers, in western Ontario, were clearing 
up their lands, they were frequently puzzled at the discovery 
of large pits filled with human bones, together with warlike and 
domestic implements and articles of personal adornment, all 
crowded together in these communal sepulchres. These bone- 
pits or ossuaries were at first attributed to burials for the disposal 
of the slain after great battles, or of those who had perished 
during epidemics of disease. Their true origin, however, was 
established beyond conjecture by the Jesuit Relations. 

Parkman, in the Jesuits in North America, has given us 
graphic details of what the Hurons considered their most solemn 
and important ceremonial. It was witnessed by Brebeuf at 
Ossossane, in the summer of 1636, and a report of it embodied 
in his Relation of the same year. The following brief description 
of the solemnity, compiled from the works of these writers, may 
answer our purpose, without going into details. 

Every ten years, or so, each of the four nations of the Huron 
confederacy held a Feast of the Dead. The time and place, at 
which the feast should be held, was decided by the chiefs of the 
nation, in solemn council. All preliminary arrangements having 
been made, the dead of the past decade were collected from far 
and near and conveyed to the common rendezvous. Previously 
however, the corpses which had, as usual, been placed on scaffolds 
or, more rarely, in the earth, for the time being, were removed 
from their temporary resting places and prepared by loving 
relatives for the final rite of sepulture. The bones of such as 
were reduced to skeletons were tied up in bundles like faggots, 
wrapped in skins and clothed with pendant robes of costly furs. 
The bodies of the more recent dead were allowed to remain entire 
and were clothed also in furs. Then these ghastly bundles of 
mortality were hung on the cross-poles, which later on sustained 
the corn harvest, of the principal long-house in the village, and 
while the mourners partook of a funeral feast, the chiefs dis 
coursed upon the public or domestic virtues of the deceased. Then 
commenced the wierd funeral march along the woodland paths 

74 The Ottawa Naturalist. [August 

through the gloomy pine forests of old Huronia, the mourners 
uttering, at intervals, dismal wailing cries, supposed to resemble 
those of disembodied spirits wending their way to the land of 
souls, and thought to have a soothing effect on the consciousness 
still residing in the bundles of bones, which each man carried. 

The Jesuits had been invited, by the chiefs of the Nation of 
the Bear, to come to Ossossane and witness the rite. This great 
town of the'Hurons lay some distance back from the eastern 
margin of Nottawassaga Bay , in the midst of a pine forest. What 
a sight it must have been to those Europeans, as, one after 
another, the weird funeral corteges, converging from the various 
towns of the Bear, issued from the surrounding forest. 

During the delav, in awaiting the complete assemblage of the 
nation's dead, the squaws ladled out food for the inevitable 
feast, while the younger members of both sexes contended for 
prizes, donated by mourners in honor of departed relatives. 
So great was the assemblage that the houses were crowded to 
suffocation and large numbers had to camp out, in the adjacent 
forest. The bundles of dead were hung from the cross-poles in 
the houses, and in the one where the Jesuits were housed up- 
wards of one hundred packages of mortality decorated the 
interior of the building. The Jesuits passed the night in one 
of these places, and endured the ordeal with Christian fortitude. 

Finally, the signal was given, by the chiefs, for the con- 
summation of the concluding rite. The packages of dead were 
opened and tears and lamentations lavished upon their contents. 
Brebeuf refers to one woman in particular, whose ecstasies of 
grief, over the bones of her father and children, were pathetic 
in the extreme. She combed her father's hair, and fondled his 
bones as if they had been alive. She made bracelets of beads 
for the arms of her children, and bathed their bones with her 
tears It was the same divine light of motherhood, which thus 
irradiated the savage dens of the Hurons, as that which shines 
in the eyes of the Christian mother, as she weeps over the cold 
form of one whose brows have been sealed with the sign of the 

The various processions now re-formed and proceeded to a 
spot in the forest, where a clearing of several acres had been 
made. In the centre of this open space a huge pit had been 
dug, ten feet in depth and thirty feet in diameter. Around this 
pit a rude scaffold had been erected, very high and strong. 
Above this scaffold rose a number of upright poles with others 
crossed between, upon which to hang the funeral gifts and 
remains of the dead. 

The different groups of mourners were assigned places 
around the edge of the clearing. The funeral gifts were now 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist. 75 

displayed, among them being many robes of the richest fur that 
had been prepared, years before, in anticipation of this ceremony. 
The kettles were then slung and feasting went on until the 
middle of the afternoon, when the bundles of bones were again 
taken up. Then, at a signal from the chiefs, the crowd rushed 
forward from all sides, like warriors at the storming of a palisaded 
town, climbed, by means of rude ladders, to the scaffolding and 
hung their dead, together with the funeral gifts, to the cross- 
poles. Then they retired and the chiefs, from the scaffolding, 
made speeches to the people, praising the dead and extolling the 
gifts given in their honor. 

During this speech making, the vast grave was being lined 
throughout with robes of beaver skin, with three copper kettles 
in the centre. The bodies, which had been left whole, were then 
cast into the pit amidst great confusion and excitement, and, 
as darkness was now coming on, the ceremony was adjourned 
until the next day, the assemblage remaining about the great 
watch-fires, which blazed about the edge of the clearing. 

Just before daylight, the Jesuits, who had retired to the 
village, were aroused by an uproar fit to wake the dead. Guided 
by the noise, they hastened back to the clearing where they 
beheld a spectacle that surpassed anything they had ever wit- 
nessed. Brebeuf says that nothing had ever figured to him 
better the confusion among the damned. One of the bundles 
of bones had fallen from the poles into the pit and precipitated the 
conclusion of the rite. Huge fires which blazed about the clearing 
lit up a fearful scene. On and about the scaffold, wild forms, howling 
like demons, hurled the packages of bones into the pit, where a 
number of others moved about amidst the ghastly shower and 
with long poles arranged the bones in their places. Then the 
pit was covered with logs and earth and the ceremony concluded 
with a funeral chant that resembled the wail of a legion of lost 
spirits. It was the death song of a lost people, the knell of a 
passing race. 

One can imagine, as a spectator of this weird scene, the 
stalwart form of Brebeuf, towering in the majesty of his fore- 
doomed martyrdom, and glorious in the might of that indom- 
itable courage that triumphed, in the hour of his death, over' 
the ingenuity of his tormentors, evolving in his mind such subtle 
arguments as might subordinate to higher ideals the rude Nature- 
worship of Huronian clanship, and win to the service of his 
Master these hordes of heathendom. 

Residents of the Capital will be surprised to learn that a 
Huron Feast of the Dead, similar to the one already described, 
was once held in Ottawa, on the spot that now occupies the 
north-west angle formed by the intersection of Wellington and 

76 The Ottawa Naturalist. [August 

Bay Streets. This is no fiction, but a fact, supported by the 
most trustworthy evidence. The proof is contained in an article 
in the Canadian Journal, Vol. 1, 1852-1853, by the late Dr. 
Edward Van Courtland, which describes an Indian burying 
ground and its contents discovered at Bytown (Ottawa) in 1843. 

Dr. Van Courtland states that in 1843 some workmen, who 
were digging sand for mortar for the old suspension bridge, 
unearthed a large quantity of human bones. He immediately 
hurried to the spot and found that the contents of an. Indian 
burying ground were being uncovered. The doctor continues :-— 
"Nothing possibly could have been more happily chosen for 
sepulture than the spot in question, situated on a projecting 
point of land directly in rear of the encampment, at a carrying- 
place and about half a mile below the mighty cataract of the 
Chaudiere, it at once demonstrated a fact handed down to us by 
tradition, that the aborigines were in the habit when they 
could, of burying their dead near running waters. The very 
oldest settlers, including the Patriarch of the Ottawa, the late 
Philemon Wright, and who had located nearby some thirty years 
before 2 had never heard of this being a burying place, although 
Indians existed in considerable numbers about the locality when he 
dwelt in the forest , added to the fact that a huge pine tree grow- 
ing directly over one of the graves, was conclusive evidence of 
its being used as a place of sepulture long ere the white man m 
his progressive march had desolated the hearths of the untutored 
savage." After two days digging the results were as follows: 

"One very large, apparently common grave, containing the 
vestiges of about twenty bodies, of various ages, a goodly share 
of them being children, together with portions of the remains of 
two dogs' heads ; the confused state in which the bones were found 
showed that no care whatever had been taken in burying the 
original owners, and a question presented itself as to whether 
they might not have all been thrown indiscriminately into one 
pit at the same time, having fallen victims to some epidemic, or 
beneath the hands of some other hostile tribe; nothing however, 
could be detected on the skulls, to indicate that they fell by the 
tomahawk, but save sundry long bones, a few pelvi, and six 
perfect skulls the remainder crumbled into dust on exposure to 
the air, in every instance the bones were deeply colored from 
Red Hematite which the aborigines used in painting, or rather in 
bedaubing their bodies, falling in the form of a deposit on them 
when the flesh had become corrupted. The material appears 
to have been very lavishly applied from the fact of the sand 

2 Philemon Wright, with 25 followers, arrived at the site of the pre- 
sent City of Hull on the 7th of March, 1800. 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist 77 

which filled the crania being entirely colored by it. A few im- 
plements and weapons of the very rudest description were dis- 
covered, to wit: — 1st, a piece of gneiss about two feet long, 
tapering, and evidently intended as a sort of war-club; it is in 
size and shape not unlike a policeman's staff. 2nd, a stone 
gouge, very rudely constructed of fossiliferous limestone; it is 
about ten inches long, and contains a fossil leptina on one of its 
edges ; it is used, I lately learned from an Indian chief, for skinning 
the beaver. 3rd, a stone hatchet of the same material. 4th, 
a sandstone boulder weighing about four pounds; it was found 
lying on the sternum of a chief of gigantic stature, who was 
buried apart from the others, and who had been walled round 
with great care. The boulder in question is completely circular 
and much in the shape of a large ship biscuit before it is stamped 
or placed in the oven, its use was, after being sewed in a skin 
bag, to serve as a corselet and protect the wearer against the 
arrows of an adversary. In every instance the teeth were perfect 
and not one unsound one was to be detected, at the same time 
they were all well worn down by trituration, it being a well 
known fact that in Council the Indians are in the habit of using 
their lower jaw like a ruminating animal, which fully accounts 
for the pecularity. There were no arrowheads or other weapons 

It will be seen, from the foregoing, that the worthy doctor 
had unearthed a small Huron ossuary, similar in its general 
features to the much larger one at Ossossane, and if the doctor's 
description is compared with reports on communal graves, in 
western Ontario, by such eminent archaeologists as Dr. David 
Boyle, curator of the Provincial Museum at Toronto, A. F. Hunter, 
George E. Laidlaw and others, one must be convinced that the 
Wellington Street ossuary was of Huron origin. When the 
doctor raises the question as to whether the bodies had not all 
been "thrown indiscriminately into one pit at the same time" 
he suggests a mode of sepulture that was actually observed by 
Brebeuf at the Huron Feast of the Dead at Ossossane. 

Another small ossuary was uncovered some years ago, on 
Aylmer Island, when the foundation for the new lighthouse was 
being excavated. The writer was not present at the exhumation 
of its contents, but the light-keeper, Mr. Frank Boucher, informed 
him that the skeletons were all piled together, indiscriminately. 
It is difficult to estimate the number of bodies interred in this 
grave, but it yielded about a wagon load of bones. A number 
of single graves have also been found at this spot, and these, 
together with the ossuary would seem to prove that Algonkin 
and Huron occupied this part of the Ottawa Valley and used 
this island in common as a place of sepulture. 

78 The Ottawa Naturalist. [August 

Embowered in the solemn grandeur of a mighty forest of 
gloomy pine, old Lac Chaudiere — our Lake Deschenes — was a 
fitting theatre for that weird ceremonial, the Huron Feast of the 
Dead. Resting on the old Algonkin camping ground at Pointe 
aux Pins — now the Queen's Park — some roving coureur de bois 
might have seen this great sheet of water fading away into the 
vast green ocean of foliage to the south, and witnessed from his 
point of vantage the uncanny incidents of the savage drama. 
From various points on the lake he might have seen, converging 
on the island, great war canoes, freighted with the living and 
the dead, the sad remnants of a passing race. He might have 
heard the long drawn out wailing cries of the living, as they 
floated in unison across the water, outrivalling the call of the 
loon or the dismal and prolonged howl of the wolf, as they echoed 
through the arches of the forest, and as the island rose before 
his vision, tenanted with its grotesque assemblage of dusky forms, 
engaged in the final rite of sepulture, he might have mused upon 
the mutability of human life, in its application to the red denizens 
of the wilderness, whether in the dissolution of a clan, a tribe 
or a nation. 

We have now reviewed three distinct sets of evidence, 
which verify one another and sustain, collectively, the hypothesis 
of Huron occupation of the Ottawa Valley. We have Huron 
arrowheads and slate implements on Algonkin camping grounds, 
we have Huron pottery from ash-beds that smouldered, possibly, 
in Huron long-houses, for considerable periods of time, and lastly, 
we have ossuaries or communal graves, a mode of sepulture 
characteristic of the Huron people, and one which would indicate 
a permanent and somewhat lengthened period of occupation. 

Of course, it will be urged that no band of Hurons would 
have built a village so near the river as the site of the old ash-beds 
at Gilmour's Mill, in Hull, but, as the Algonkins lived, sometimes, 
in the Huron country and adopted, to some extent, the customs 
of their confederates, might not the Hurons, if they came to 
live with the Algonkins on the Ottawa, have followed the usage 
of the latter in the selection of their dwelling places. 

The evidence, so far obtained, seems to have given us fairly 
conclusive proofs of Huron occupation of the Ottawa Valley, 
and the beginning of a new chapter in the history of one of the 
great native races of Canada, but, as yet, we have no data that 
gives us a clue to the time of this period of occupation. Our two 
ossuaries, already referred to, yielded nothing that could be traced 
to the white trader; yet this is not negative evidence that the 
interments were made before European contact. The Wellington 
Street ossuaiy held quite a number of implements, while that on 
Aylmer Island had none. As Dr. David Boyle remarks: "The 

1909] The Ottawa Naturalist 79 

truth is we are yet in the dark regarding the philosophy of 
aboriginal burials, and, perhaps will ever remain so." So that 
in the absence of evidence we can indulge only in conjecture. 

It will be remembered that, after the four nations of the 
Huron Confederacy went down in red ruin beneath the merciless 
tomahawks of the Iroquois, the conquerors turned their victorious 
arms against the Neutrals or Attiwanderons ; stormed and took 
their palisaded towns, together with hundreds of prisoners, 
whom they burnt or adopted, and left a trail of fire and blood 
along the northern shores of Lake Erie . Then they wheeled in 
their tracks and rushed, like a pack of famished wolves, upon 
the Eries or Cats, a kindred tribe to the south of Lake Erie, 
whom they destroyed utterly in one of the fiercest Indian battles 
recorded in history. Meanwhile, on the eastern frontiers of the 
Iroquois Confederacy, the Mohawks were at war with their 
Algonkin neighbors, the Mohicans, and with their own Iroquoian 
kinsmen, the Andastes or Conestogas. During a decade of conflict 
with these opposing forces, a series of bloody reverses had hum- 
bled the Mohawk arrogance, when the other four nations of the 
Iroquois league took up the strife, in the Andaste war. For 
fifteen years the Iroquois' war-parties traversed the forests 
towards the Susquehanna before the heroic Andastes were 
wasted away by the attrition of superior numbers and finally 
overcome by the Senecas, about the year 1675. Thus, in a 
period of twenty-five years, from the downfall of the Hurons to 
the conquest of the Andastes, the Iroquois had triumphed over 
all the neighboring nations and peace reigned, for a time, over 
the blood stained wilderness. But, during all these wars, the 
Confederates were able to send war-parties on the trail to Canada, 
that kept New France in a turmoil, by cutting off her outposts 
and wasting her outlying settlements. It is not likely, however, 
that any of these expeditions went out of their way to attack 
Algonkin or Huron stragglers on the Ottawa, and these fugitive 
bands may have remained unmolested for a few years, until 
their final destruction or dispersion could be made an incident 
in some more important enterprise of the Iroquois. 

Let us now return to the Hurons. In the year 1650, after a 
terrible winter made horrible by famine, death and the Iroquois, 
the Jesuits abandoned their last mission fort of Ste. Marie on 
Ahoendoe — St. Joseph's or Christian Island — and led some three 
hundred of these unfortunate people to Quebec, by way of the 
Ottawa. A much larger number, however, w T ho were left behind, 
were forced by the Iroquois to abandon their fort and retire to 
Manitoulin Island and the northern forests. But the Iroquois 
were on their trail; so, finally, loading their canoes, about four 

80 The Ottawa Naturalist [August 

hundred of them took the route of the Ottawa to join their 
kindred who had preceded them. Other scattered bands follow- 
ed, from time to time, of which we appear to have no definite 
record. By this time the whole Ottawa River had been swept by 
the tornado of Iroquois ferocity and its shores had become a 

Now for our conjecture. Cases are not infrequent in which 
Indian communities have been forced to abandon their homes, 
through stress of war, but have again returned to them after 
some years, when the war cloud had given place to the sunlight 
of peace. Doubtless, in. their wanderings on the northern 
tributaries of the Ottawa, Algonkin and Huron had alike eaten 
the bread of adversity and drunk the water of affliction and were 
ready for any asylum that would afford them a brief period of 
rest. "Now, while the time of the Iroquois was fully occupied 
in the terrible wars already enumerated, may it not have been 
possible that some of the fugitive remnants of the Hurons, on 
their way to Quebec, stopped and settled on the Ottawa, to- 
gether with similar bands of Algonkins, who had returned to 
their old camping grounds? 

A serious objection, of course, to the theory of Huron occup- 
ation of the Ottawa Valley, in the latter half of the seventeenth 
century, is the presence of Huron pottery in the ash-beds at Hull 
and Casselman, as the Indians are supposed to have discarded 
their native earthenware for the brass or copper kettles of the 
white trader, soon after the advent of Europeans, still, how- 
ever, it should be borne in mind that the craggan, (see 
Annual Archaeological Report 1906 (Toronto 1907) pp. 16-18), 
an earthen vessel of domestic manufacture, made from unrefined 
clay and similar in design and finish to the very crudest forms 
of our Indian pottery, was made and used until quite recently — 
.if it is not used, even, to-day — in the kitchens of several of the 
Scottish Islands, and that these vessels were preferred, for many 
purposes, to the more costly and highly finished products of 
modern ceramic art. These craggans were made by housewives 
to serve, among others, the purposes of drinking vessels and pots 
for boiling ; so that if such prehistoric pottery could have survived 
among the Scottish Islanders, to a time within the memory 
of the living in competition with domestic innovations 
of centuries of . civilization, why should not the Hurons 
of the Ottawa have retained, for a few years at least, 
the earthenware of their ancestors, under somewhat similar 
conditions? Finally, William M. Beauchamp 3 refers to a 

"Earthenware of the New York Aborigines. Bulletin of the New 
York State Museum, Vol. 5, No. 22, October, 1898, p. 80. 

1909J The Ottawa Naturalist 81 

similar survival of the use of pottery, among the Iroquois, as 
follows: "Refuse hearts, by village sites, usually contain a great 
deal of earthenware, out of which fine or curious fragments are 
often taken, and these occur also in the ash beds of the old fire- 
places. This is so on some quite recent sites, for while the richer 
Iroquois obtained brass kettles quickly from the whites, their 
poorer friends continued the primitive art till the beginning of 
the 18th century at least." Another statement by the 
same writer, is important, as it would exclude the probability 
of our pottery being referable to the Algonkins. He writes, 
in the Bulletin referred to, at page 76, as follows: "In fact, 
the Canadian Indians do not appear to have, used earthenware 
in early days, with the exception of the allied Hurons and Petuns, 
the Neutrals and the Iroquois of the St. Lawrence, all of these 
being of one family. .... The nomadic tribes, however, 
preferred vessels of bark, easily carried but not easily broken. 
In these they heated water with hot stones, as the Iroquois may 
sometimes have done." 

The above theory, as to the time of Huron occupation, is 
only a suggestion, unsupported at present by sufficient evidence 
to prove it. It may turn out, eventually, that the fireplaces of 
this vanished race grew cold, on the Ottawa, in the dim twilight 
of a more remote antiquity. Is it possible that, before the 
coming of the white man, the old Wyandots or Tionnontates, in 
the course of their traditionary wanderings, so admirably describ- 
ed by William E. Connelley, may have remained for a time on 
the Ottawa, and left us only their ashbeds^and ossuaries to puzzle 

Another question also suggests itself. Where did the Hurons 
go to after leaving the Ottawa? They appear and disappear on 
the stage of tribal activities, either standing boldly forth in some 
historic incident, or dimly silhouetted by the light of tradition, 
on the dark back-ground of prehistoric time. Did they migrate, 
finally, to join their kindred in their distant resting places? 
Did they fade away, by adoption, into other tribes? Or, were 
they absorbed by the red cloud of massacre, to disappear forever 
in the darksome shadow of the illimitable wilderness?